Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205

04/02/2009 01:00 PM LABOR & COMMERCE


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Audio Topic
01:07:25 PM Start
01:09:37 PM Overview: Nenana Basin Gas Exploration Project by Doyon, Ltd. and Rampart Energy
02:10:47 PM SB159
02:25:47 PM SB163
02:38:11 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Time & Location Change --
+ Presentation: Overview of Nenana Basin TELECONFERENCED
Gas Exploration Project by Doyon Ltd. and
Rampart Energy
*+ SB 159 WORKERS' COMPENSATION FUNERAL EXPENSES TELECONFERENCED
Moved SB 159 Out of Committee
*+ SB 163 MAXIMUM BENEFIT FROM FISHERMEN'S FUND TELECONFERENCED
Moved SB 163 Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
          SB 163-MAXIMUM BENEFIT FROM FISHERMEN'S FUND                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:25:47 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR PASKVAN announced SB 163 to be up for consideration.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
JAKE HAMBURG, staff  to Senator Paskvan, said SB  163 updates the                                                               
Alaska Fishermen's Fund  limit to $10,000, which  would bring the                                                               
program back  to providing  a meaningful  level of  assistance as                                                               
the payer of  last resort for commercial fishermen  and crew that                                                               
sustain injuries while fishing.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
The Alaska  Fishermen's Fund was  established in 1951  to provide                                                               
for  the  treatment  and  care   of  Alaska  licensed  commercial                                                               
fishermen  and crew  who  are injured  while  fishing onshore  or                                                               
offshore.  The upper  limit on  claims in  the fund  has remained                                                               
$2,500  since 1959.  If this  had been  adjusted for  the CPI  it                                                               
would  be  worth about  $18,229  today.  Health care  costs  have                                                               
steadily risen  and the fund  is financed from revenue  from each                                                               
resident and  non-resident commercial fishing license  and permit                                                               
fee. In 2008 there were  13,706 commercial fishing permit holders                                                               
including 135  in the Fairbanks  North Star Borough.  The account                                                               
has  grown   to  $11.5   million  due   in  part   to  continuing                                                               
improvements in fishing industry safety.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:28:00 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BUNDE  asked  if  the limit  was  $18,229  adjusted  for                                                               
inflation why they are only asking for $10,000.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. HAMBURG  replied that typical  claims were looked at  as well                                                               
as  a sustainable  number for  the fund  to maintain  and $10,000                                                               
seemed to be that number.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:28:53 PM                                                                                                                    
JERRY  MCCUNE,  United  Fishermen  of  Alaska,  said  this  is  a                                                               
dedicated  fund on  program receipts  that go  the Department  of                                                               
Revenue and  is administered  by Fishermen's  Fund board  and the                                                               
Department  of  Labor  and  Workforce  Development  (DOLWD).  The                                                               
$10,000 is  a place  to start  while looking  at how  many claims                                                               
come in. He remarked that the  previous amount of $2,500 was only                                                               
worth $345 in today's prices.  This would give a little certainty                                                               
to the  fishermen, the clinics and  the hospitals to not  have to                                                               
go the appeals process to  get funds. He explained that fishermen                                                               
pay up to 39  percent or $50 as a permit  holder, a crewman would                                                               
pay $23.40  out of  their crew  license for a  total of  about $1                                                               
million per year. Administrative costs run $307 per claim.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:31:13 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE said it seems like  this is a trial balloon, and he                                                               
asked if  it doesn't negatively  impact the fund, would  they ask                                                               
for a greater increase.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
    C                                                                                                                           
MR MCUNE  replied that he  would have to sit down  with the board                                                               
again and negotiate  those numbers. Permit holders used  to pay a                                                               
bigger amount,  for instance. He  would have  to look at  ways of                                                               
supplementing the fund  more. It's true; they want to  look at it                                                               
for a couple of years first.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
2:32:16 PM                                                                                                                    
BOB THORSTENSON, Alaska  Seine Boat Owners, supported  SB 163. He                                                               
illustrated the  need for  the increase by  pointing out  that he                                                               
lost his front teeth  when a big block hit him in  the face a few                                                               
years ago.  Fixing it cost  about $6,000  and there was  a $2,500                                                               
cap.  While he  was able  to make  up the  difference, a  younger                                                               
skipper with no  savings would be badly burdened.  Five years ago                                                               
he  lost  part of  his  finger  in  another accident  which  cost                                                               
another $6,000.  He said the $2,500  as a limit is  becoming more                                                               
obsolete.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
He said they are working with  the DOLWD and the Fishermen's Fund                                                               
board  on some  other  regulatory and  administrative changes  to                                                               
make this an even better  program. Commercial fishermen pay their                                                               
own way, he pointed out.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:35:33 PM                                                                                                                    
JIM  HERBERT, commercial  fisherman from  Seward, supported  this                                                               
bill. He  served on the Fishermen's  Fund Board for 12  years and                                                               
thought this  was a wise  change. The  essence of the  program is                                                               
fishermen helping fishermen. Over time  they may see some changes                                                               
but  given his  experience with  the  fund, he  didn't think  the                                                               
changes would  be drastic. It  doesn't take much to  spend $2,500                                                               
in the ER; this is something that can really benefit people.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
2:37:01 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR PASKVAN closed public testimony.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:37:29 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  THOMAS  moved  to  report SB  163  from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There                                                               
being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:38:11 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR PASKVAN  said he  felt it appropriate  today on  the 50th                                                               
anniversary  of statehood,  that the  committee should  pass this                                                               
bill, making the first change to the statute since statehood.                                                                   

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